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The Whitehurst Diaries: Lady Hercules

By Sharon Whitehurst

Four seasons on our small Gradyville farm have brought an increasing familiarity with the fauna and flora indigenous to Kentucky and in particular to the ridges and 'hollers' of Adair County.

We've grown accustomed to [if not resigned to] the proliferation of possums who raid the melon patch. We recognize the doe who leads her twin fawns past the bowed and burdened branches of the old pear tree. This year's company of 18 wild turkeys are regular early morning visitors. [It is usually the cats who spot them first, and alert me with their stiff and watchful postures.]

We welcome the bluebirds and tree swallows who arrive in spring to set up housekeeping in Haskell Rogers' weathered bird houses. Less welcome was our one visitation from a cow snake who slid across the back lawn early in our residency. It's friends and relations have been spotted near the tobacco barn or in the field, but have thankfully kept their distance.

Dusk on a summer evening brings the call of a whip-poor-will from the banks of Big Creek. When I remarked that these birds seemed to have a southern accent I was told they may be a whip-poor-will cousin, Chuck-Will's Widow.

As darkness moves in the coyotes tune up--their lonesome howls echo from ridges to the west, the south, and from the stony cliff that backs the creek to the north-east. Several of them have been bold enough to trek across the back pasture in full view.

I haven't seen the owls who add their hoots to the muted nocturnal cacophony. In Wyoming we were accustomed to the booming "Whoo's" of several Great-Horned Owls who lived in the cottonwoods along the irrigation ditch on our property. These Kentucky owls are softer-voiced, less strident.>BR?>BR? A number of times the evening air has suddenly shivered with the snarling scream of a wildcat, 'painters' our neighbor Dale Hayes calls them. We listen from the domestic safety of the front porch, imagining a time when wilderness with its teaming, sometimes threatening life, pressed close to isolated homesteads.

Deer, turkeys, coyotes, owls, have all had their counter-parts in the places we've lived prior to becoming Kentucky residents.

Insects have been a new study. We've had help identifying Red Velvet Ants and Bagworms. We take note of the hollow discarded armor of cicadas, occasionally finding their lifeless large-winged bodies in the carport.

I've learned to dispatch black spiders who wear a fiddle-shaped red shield. I search out and admire the intricate zig-zag stitched webs of Argiope Aurantia, the now familiar black and yellow garden spider.

Sunday evening brought us a new 'bug' to identify.

My friend Gracie Thies and I were admiring each other's current crafting projects spread out on the table in my big ground floor room. The door was open to the back hallway where the outside door leads to the bulkhead steps. Raising my eyes from my welter of half-finished quilt blocks I spied two of the boy-cats, Nellie and Edward, hovering over a dark shape on the hall floor, just inside the screen door. Edward put out a tentative paw and poked what might have been a mouse. Gracie and I moved in to take stock of the intruder. Toeing the cats aside I bent over the large insect which trundled determinedly away from my shoe.

Footsteps overhead announced the timely arrival of daughter Gina and son-in-law Matt out for their nightly walk.

"Fetch my camera," I shouted, " Come see what's invaded the hall!"

There were now four humans and an assortment of interested felines circling the big beetle who dodged this way and that, apparently wanting only to escape attention.

Gina hurried to place a spool of thread by the bug for size comparison; I laid a quilting ruler on the floor and attempted to coax the creature alongside.

At this close range I noticed that the front 'feet' and the 'face' of the insect wore a fine veil of cobwebs and cat hair. Having subjected the unknown beetle to a photo session, I lifted it onto a sheet of paper and carried it outside to the weedy area near the carport.

Last evening I posted beetle photos to our grand daughter Kelsey in Colorado Springs.

Before I had finished a Google search she had provided a link identifying our intruder as a female Eastern Hercules Beetle. My first thought was that the beetle came in the open door when Jim was sweeping leaves out of the stairwell.

After reading the information in the link provided, it seems possible that she over-wintered in a chunk of the stove wood stored in the basement hallway and emerged to a bewildering indoor captivity.

She has been duly added to the life list of creatures strangely and wonderfully made. - Sharon Whitehurst

This story was posted on 2013-08-22 10:14:35
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The Whitehurst Diaries: Portraits of Lady Hercules

2013-08-22 - Old Gradyville Road, Gradyville, KY - Photo by Sharon Whitehurst. The Whitehursts intellectual pursuits have broadened to Insects of Kentucky. For size comparison and proof of veracity about just how monstrously huge this bug is she sent the photos above. "At this close range I noticed that the front 'feet' and the 'face' of the insect wore a fine veil of cobwebs and cat hair. Having subjected the unknown beetle to a photo session." It's unknown to her no more: Its a Hercules Beetle.
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